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How often did a Red Army soldier march per day?

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  • Sharposhnikov
    replied
    25-30 km has been a good sustained daily march rate ever since the Roman Legions for units of regimental-brigade (or Legion) size - 3-5000 men. Marlborough's army of 15 - 25,000 (he picked up German contingents on the way) made about 20-25 km per day across western Germany in 1704 in high summer (July) and actually arrived in Bavaria in better condition than they'd left Holland. This was exceptional, though, and due to very, very good organization of the march.
    Large units for a short time have historically hit speeds of 50 or more km per day, but only for a few days and with on occasion some pretty serious wastage. The wastage, by the way, is most severe in summer - not winter, fall or spring. Heat stroke and heat prostration brought on by long duration exercise in the summer sun will drop more troops than simple exhaustion or frost casualties in other seasons.
    Given the very short training time that most Soviet infantrymen received, I suspect that most were not in good condition for long foot marches until they had been in units for a while. On the other hand, some pre-war units at the very start of the war - June-July 1941 - made some pretty long foot marches, but it's hard to get good statistics on actual march speeds, because the marches were interrupted and disrupted by air or ground attack so often.
    Another hidden problem of foot marches. At least in WWII, both the German and Soviet infantry units had a considerable number of horses hauling heavy weapons and supplies, and a long march, especially in summer, was literally murder on the horses. A man can be motivated to move farther and faster, but a horse that gets overheated is in immediate and deadly trouble. The German army lost almost 1/3 of the horses it took into the USSR in Barbarossa before the first fall, and largely to the wastage from long marches in a continental summer climate. I haven't seen any figures for horse losses in the Red Army, but I bet that first summer saw some nasty wastage, between long forced marches and poor veterinary support (too many veterinary units in the new rifle divisions were simply not well-manned or trained, like every other specialized element in those divisions)
    Final note. While both armies could make pretty equal foot marches in good terrain, the Germans admitted that the Red Army was better than they were at moving units of troops over rough terrain, through woods and swamps. Reason for this, which the Germans do not seem to have caught on to during the war, was that a Red Army unit would have men moving ahead of the main body to 'clear the trail' of brush and obstructions so the rest could move faster. The lead party would be rotated so they could stay fresh and keep the whole unit moving. Every rifle regiment had a sapper (combat engineer) platoon with a wagon full of Pioneer Tools (axes, long-handled shovels, picks, etc) that could be issued to the 'clearing parties' to keep the unit advancing in poor terrain. I first saw a description of these clearing units in a translation of a post-war Soviet infantry manual published around 1950-51.

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  • Karri
    replied
    I recall that in army, finnish that is, we were supposed to be able to march 20-30kms with full gear and still be in fighting condition.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    You have to keep a pace that your troops can handle. THe Urban "Prolo" Divs would have been shredded trying to march 25 km in a day, but I bet the Siberians could have done twice that and still fight the next day if they had to.

    Also, the conditions are going to play merry hob with you your calculations. Summertime means good dry ground and a minimum of gear. Winter will slow everything down, and in Spring and Fall mud making 5 km in a day can be a major feat.

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  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    Originally posted by Golani View Post
    CS- sounds about right, most hikes done here in light gear are at a 6-7 KPH pace.

    BUT, these are meant to challenge or toughen you up and are done in small frames (company, tops), I certainly wouldn't expect the same while marching in the real deal.

    A battalion frame pace with full combat gear (for 48 hours) moving in combat formation is about 1-2 KPH.
    Actually most of those training marches I was on were battalion size. But I think we agree a sustained march of a large unit/s can be a much slower.

    Searching my book shelves I'm reminded of Col Edisons report describing the combat marches he witnessed the Chinese Communists make in the 1930s. With a very light load of only weapons and minimum ammunition he accompanied raiding groups of large companies or small battalions that moved 10 to 30 lm to a target, then after the fight march another fifty or sixty plus kilometers to a safe haven.

    Edgar Snow may have described similar marches, tho I dont have any of his writing here to check.

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  • Golani
    replied
    CS- sounds about right, most hikes done here in light gear are at a 6-7 KPH pace.

    BUT, these are meant to challenge or toughen you up and are done in small frames (company, tops), I certainly wouldn't expect the same while marching in the real deal.

    A battalion frame pace with full combat gear (for 48 hours) moving in combat formation is about 1-2 KPH.

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  • ShAA
    replied
    Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
    IIRC they were up and moving by 0430 with only short breaks in between until about mid might.

    While Hollywood doesn't know it, much of the Army in the West was Inf, sometime horse mounted but not always.

    I'll see if I can find any references to support the STORY.
    Okay, in 1789 Suvorovs troops were sent to aid the Austrians against Turks and they marched 52 km in 28 hours what was considered an exceptionally high speed of troop movement. Still, Suvorov's troops were specifically trained, among other things, to march long distances at a fast pace.

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  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    Thats funny. All the eyewitness accounts from Soviet soldiers I have read describe riding trains or vehicals. Nothing in my reading is from a infantryman who marched'. Motor rifle, tanks, aircraft mechanics, artillery, service units, but no long infantry walks.

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  • Half Pint John
    replied
    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
    Is that about 80 km a day with full fighting gear? It's like 11 hours non-stop walking at a pretty fast pace. Even marathon runners would be dropping like flies after such ordeal.
    There are storys of Inf in the Old West
    IIRC they were up and moving by 0430 with only short breaks in between until about mid might.

    While Hollywood doesn't know it, much of the Army in the West was Inf, sometime horse mounted but not always.

    I'll see if I can find any references to support the STORY.

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  • Pilsudski
    replied
    Yes that's a good way to set this up; how much would a Red Army infantryman march per day during training?

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  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    Our common training march was 28 km with a fairly light combat load. Weapon, a ration, water (two liters), ammunition... perhaps 12-15 kg. We usually completed it in four hours over the coastal hills of California or Virginia. If the ground were flat then closer to three hours. Two or three rests of ten minutes were normal. Those who were in good condition would need little rest before other tasks after this sort of march. Clerks and cooks suffered.

    We usually ran the last few kilometers just to increase the challenge.

    Certainly more was possible, but the battalion surgeons could predict with mathmatical certainity the steady increase in foot injuries with each extra kilometer. We had to be in good condition to move further & faster without significant foot & leg injuries.

    Doubling the load with rations, blankets, ammunition, would slow the pace significantly.

    A completely different problem with large columns of many battalions is the 'friction' which causes the column to slow its average speed. This friction is a function of the experience & effciency of the commanders staff in keeping the column moving smoothly

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  • Pilsudski
    replied
    Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
    You'll probaly get about 3 -4 miles per hour with a rest every 2 hours of perhaps 30 minutes.
    Alright thanks. I wasn't asking for any exact measurements, just a rough estimate.

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  • ShAA
    replied
    Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
    There are storys of Inf in the Old West that would do 50 on a forced march. That doesn't say what fighting condition they were in at the end of the day.
    Is that about 80 km a day with full fighting gear? It's like 11 hours non-stop walking at a pretty fast pace. Even marathon runners would be dropping like flies after such ordeal.

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  • Half Pint John
    replied
    To many variables. Rain or snow or dry. Paved road or dirt or across country. You'll probaly get about 3 -4 miles per hour with a rest every 2 hours of perhaps 30 minutes.

    There are storys of Inf in the Old West that would do 50 on a forced march. That doesn't say what fighting condition they were in at the end of the day.

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  • Pilsudski
    replied
    Ok let's say infantryman on foot.

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  • amvas
    replied
    Originally posted by Pilsudski View Post
    Especially during the later phases of the war, post-1943. What would be a good estimate of the average?
    It depended on the situation and transport.....
    The later period was very dynamic

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